On October 23, Twitter user @dagneo36 started the hashtag #STEMartists to help bring awareness about creativity in the Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math fields. The hashtag has been retweeted thousands of times and has sparked an important conversation about the intersection of logic and creativity.
Often we think of creativity and logic being two very different animals. We presume those who are creative can’t also be interested in STEM and vice versa. It’s the old right versus left brain debate, which by the way isn’t a thing. The now debunked line of thinking is that some individuals are more dominate in either their right (art, imagination creativity) or left (logic, analysis, objective) brain. Dismantling these misconceptions about how creativity and logic work is part of what the hashtag #STEMartists hopes to accomplish. Having a conversation about who gets to be creative in our society is beneficial for everyone because no one group owns creativity or logic.
The creator of the hashtag, who goes by the name Dagneo, is currently studying for the their Doctorate in Materials Science and Engineering. “My research is on 2-dimensional electronic materials; I probably shouldn’t get into it too much, but the big picture goal is to create more power efficient and functional electronics by using materials other than silicon.”
I asked Dagneo, who prefers to go by their artist handle, what inspired them to create the #STEMArtists hashtag, here’s what they had to say:
Most of the time artists on social media don’t share much about what they do STEM-wise, I think partly because we feel our followers might not be interested. Similarly, artists don’t generally talk about their art life to STEM fellows because it’s not relatable to the general public. This leads to most of us being “two personas,” one for each category. I wanted come up with a tag where people can present not just their art “half” or their science “half” but just themselves as a whole.
The media, Dagneo says, often portrays people on one side of the creative spectrum or the other but the truth is much more complicated and diverse, as people regularly rely on their creative side to aid them in their more logical pursuits and vice-versa. For Dagneo, it’s also provided much needed respite from their intensive scholarly work.
“I always joke that art keeps me sane through grad school (it’s actually not much of a joke). It’s a way for me to destress at home after a long day, and I think it’s the same for anybody in any type of job. People might work at an office and come home and relax and watch a movie; I come home and draw.”
The response to the hashtag has been encouraging and slightly unexpected for Dagneo, who said the hashtag has received much more attention than they anticipated:
I’m also very excited that people from the full spectrum of art-science careers have responded; most people are science students who are hobby artists, but there are also those who graduated and continued in a STEM career as well as those who decided on an artistic career. There are also tweets from young STEMartists who were relieved to see that it is actually possible for them to continue both art and science and that it’s ok not to 100% devote themselves to one and give up the other. These are my favorite, because it’s a sign that the hashtag is doing its job of representing something rarely shown elsewhere.
Many artists who participated in the hashtag tweeted about how their art work helps them when they are stuck in the lab, in their studies, or at work (and vice-versa). I chatted over Twitter with artist Thi Cong about their contributions to the hashtag and how drawing helps their work in STEM.
For so long, I was pressured and told that logic and creativity had to be separate. For so long, I watched many of my creative friends give up their spark because of their dedication to STEM. But here it was, a tag to celebrate when people want to pursue both! How exciting! I wanted to remind myself that I may love science, but my love for art makes me happy too.
Cong, who is currently in school to be come a certified pharmacy technician, spoke about how their artwork influences their scholarly and professional pursuits.
The relationship between my art and my field can feel like a deep divide between interests sometimes. In my field, I need to be technical and precise, with knowledge built on reason and logic. On the other hand, my art doesn’t need to be precise to form a picture where people can eyeball the final result. Both require me to think in different directions. However, my art and my field can also compliment one another. When my studies wear me down, I can channel my need for something fun into beautiful colors on a canvas. When I can’t paint a picture, I return to my studies to focus my blank mind into formulated thought. In this way, they have helped more than they hurt: I study more efficiently over time, and I never lose my creative spark for long.
If there’s anything Dangeo wants people to take away from the #STEMartists tag it’s that creativity and logic aren’t mutually exclusive. “There’s a bit of science in art and a bit of art in science, and I think acknowledging can only make both more interesting.”